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direct democracy Citizen proposal demands lower health insurance costs

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Tackling the burden of high insurance premiums: campaigners on Thursday.

(© Keystone / Anthony Anex)

Social democrats have handed in signatures to force a national vote on the heated topic of health insurance payments, which they want to cap at 10% of a household’s income.

Arguing that premiums have risen drastically in recent years and have become a burden on citizens, campaigners collected 118,000 signatures for the initiative handed in on Thursday.

Swiss households currently spend an average of 14% of their income on basic health insurance payments, the campaigners say; they want to cap this at 10%, with the slack to be taken up by reductions in premiums paid for by federal and cantonal authorities.

The 14% figure is disputed, however, with the Federal Office for Public Health since clarifying that it referred specifically to the poorest fifth of households in the country. The Swiss Medical Association published an analysis in autumn last year claiming that payments averaged 7% across all households.

Initiative organisers estimate that the proposed reform would cost public coffers CHF3-4 million ($3-4 million).

Lingering debate

The proposal comes after several cantons have tried to find ways to control and alleviate health premiums on a local level.

In canton Vaud, for example, which served as a model for this national initiative, payments were reduced progressively to a maximum of 12% of income from September 2018.

The centrist Christian Democratic party is also collecting signatures for a similar initiative to lower costs, which are a perennial headache for Swiss citizens.

Over the past two decades, health and health insurance have consistently been among the top three concerns of the people, according to the annual Credit Suisse Worry Barometer.

Keystone-SDA/dos

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